Suffragette movement brought to life at Lisburn Historical Society

AT the November meeting of Lisburn Historical Society the well known author of Irish women’s history, Dr Margaret Ward, presented a fascinating account of the key events in the struggle for equality by suffragettes in Northern Ireland.

2012 marks the centenary commemoration of the first women in Ireland imprisoned as a consequence of their militant fight for the vote. Initially known as Suffragists, they were given the title Suffragettes as a derogatory label for their movement.

In 1866 Liberal politician, John Stuart Mill, became the first person in the history of Parliament to call for women to be given the right to vote. Support for women’s rights grew and in 1871 Isabella Todd organised local involvement when she founded the Northern Ireland Society of Women’s Suffrage. By the beginning of the First World War there were about 20 suffrage groups in Northern Ireland and about 1,000 members.

The campaign of militancy was suspended during World War One but continued lobbying and action eventually brought success. On February 6, 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed, granting women over the age of 30 the right to vote. Ten years later, with the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1928, all women over the age of 21 were finally allowed to vote.

Lisburn Historical Society’s next presentation, entitled ‘Commemorations, Past, Present and Future’ will be on January 9, 2013. Brian Walker, author and Professor of Irish Studies at QUB, will examine how we have worked commemorations in the past. He will show how such events often caused discord but in recent times have, on occasions, facilitated reconciliation and a shared history. The forthcoming decade of centenary celebrations will also be discussed.